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Miss Saigon

HCMC


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There are 10 million people in Ho Chi Minh City and a staggering 5.2 million motorcycles. A mere 5 minutes after getting in to a taxi from the station (with a soundtrack of Bony M my driver had found specially for his foreign passenger) we had knocked someone off their scooter. Thankfully she was just shaken and could carry on her journey, but those road death statistics are starting to make sense.

I visited the Cu Chi tunnel complex outside the city, where Viet Cong and local villagers created an underground maze of bunkers to hide from the American bombs. The tunnels themselves are tiny, in parts only 80cm high and phenomenally sweaty. The VC managed to construct kitchens, ammunition workshops and operating theatres in the mud, all ventilated by bamboo pipes with outlets disguised as anthills.
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After the tunnels we went to the Cao Dai Holy See. This religion was formed in the 1920s and was originally an amalgamation of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism. It later borrowed from Catholicism and Islam and is predictably bonkers. We observed a service- the priests wear blue, red or yellow robes whilst the adherents wear white. The cathedral itself is a confection of pillars and frescos and includes a mural depicting their three major saints, one of whom is Victor Hugo, author of Les Miserables. Given that he died in 1885 and was a notorious rejector of organised religion, I'm not quite sure what he'd make of this.
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The next day I braced myself for a trip to the War Remnants Museum. It has, amongst other things, collected an extraordinary number of photographs from during and in the aftermath of the American War, by both Vietnamese and Foreign photojournalists. There are no punches pulled and the effect is almost overwhelming. A difficult but necessary visit and a fascinating insight in to how the Vietnamese view the conflict. I sought respite in the Vietnamese answer to Starbucks (proof of how far the country has come I suppose) where I had a caramel iced coffee jelly freeze (me neither) which turned out to be one of the best things I've ever drunk.

In the evening I got to meet up with the lovely German couple I'd met in Hoi An, Denis and Franzi, for dinner and cocktails. During my travels I've met many people only fleetingly and so it was refreshing to see some people again later on to compare notes. We were chucked out of the cocktail bar at 9pm in honour of the state funeral of General Giap, a significant figure from both the fight for independence and American War, who had died at the grand old age of 102 the week before.

After over two weeks in Vietnam it was time to move on. I've had 16 days of fantastic food and beautiful sites, but Cambodia beckoned.

Posted by arianemeena 08:37 Archived in Vietnam

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Comments

Very interesting, definitely a place I should visit!

by Bala

thanks for the fascinating insights ariane! am off to hospital for my op now and drinking my pre-op green goo which is high in protein and carbs and meant to enhance recuperation post-op. I think your caramel iced coffee jelly freeze sounds a lot more fun! good luck and love. harriet xxxxxxxxxxx

by harriet tillson

great that you met up again with your German friends! I thoroughly recommend them as a Nationality! I think Esther will concur!
ever onwards, thinking of you.love from your Aunt Harriet! xxxxxx you don't have to print that but are very welcome! xxxx

by harriet tillson

Loved the bonkers temples-you can't have too many dodgy religions?! Hope rain holds off so you can visit some of the major Cambodian temples Mx

by Jane Waran

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